Opportunities for women

This work supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Quality Education
  • Gender Equality
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Reduced Inequalities
  • Partnership For The Goals

Advancing diversity & inclusion

We believe a diverse and inclusive business makes us, and society, stronger. It reinforces our positive social impact, while helping us attract and retain talented people and engage the people who buy our products.

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How we're building a diverse & inclusive culture

We’re a diverse company and are determined to build a strongly inclusive culture which respects every employee for who they are – regardless of gender, age, race, disability or sexual orientation. We believe that our employees’ contributions are richer because of their diversity, and we want to help them feel free to bring their authentic self to work every day. And we want to accelerate progress in equality of opportunity and women’s empowerment, because as two of our most material issues, they’re central to our business growth and our social impact.

Our diversity & inclusion strategy

We have a broad strategy for diversity and inclusion, which includes three key points of focus:

  • improving the representation of women in management, with a goal of gender balance
  • enabling the inclusion of disabled employees and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) employees
  • challenging harmful social norms and stereotypes in our workplaces and beyond
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Of the people who buy our products are women

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Employees making and selling products that are on sale in over 190 countries

Inclusion is at the heart of the global sustainable development agenda, with its central ambition to ‘leave no one behind’ – so building diversity and inclusion within and beyond our business supports a range of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And we believe a more diverse and inclusive workforce can boost financial performance, reputation, innovation and staff motivation – and bring us closer to our consumers.

By empowering women in our workplaces and our value chain, for example, we contribute to SDG 5 on Gender Equality. But we also contribute to the Goals on Education and Economic Growth by engaging and empowering our consumers, 70% of whom are women. And we make our workforce stronger – as we do through our focus on disability and LGBT inclusion – by ensuring we draw on the best talent, and giving our people the freedom to flourish.

Since 2009, we’ve been committed to building a gender-balanced organisation. We set a clear ambition to have 50% women in management positions by 2020 as part of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and by the end of 2018, 49% of our managers were women.

Diversity: a commitment at the heart of our business

Our Code of Business Principles applies to every Unilever employee everywhere in the world. It includes a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Our Code of Business Principles & Policies

Our Code of Business Principles states that we are “committed to a working environment that promotes diversity and equal opportunity and where there is mutual trust, respect for human rights and no discrimination. We will recruit, employ and promote employees on the sole basis of the qualifications and abilities needed for the work to be performed.”

Our Code is supported by 24 mandatory Code Policies that define the ethical behaviour employees must demonstrate when working in our business. Our Respect, Dignity and Fair Treatment Code Policy sets out what our employees must do to ensure that all our workplaces maintain our commitment to diversity.

For example Unilever employees must:

  • respect the dignity and human rights of colleagues and all others they come into contact with as part of their jobs

  • treat everyone fairly and equally, without discrimination on the grounds of race, age, role, gender, gender identity, colour, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, marital status, dependants, disability, social class or political views. This includes consideration for recruitment, redundancy, promotion, reward and benefits, training or retirement which must be based on merit.

Employees must not:

  • engage in any direct behaviour that is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting. This includes any form of sexual or other harassment or bullying, whether individual or collective and whether motivated by race, age, role, gender, gender identity, colour, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, marital status, dependants, disability, social class or political views

  • associate our products or services with – or feature within any Unilever marketing – themes, figures or images likely to cause serious or widespread offence to any religion, nationality, culture, gender, race, sexual orientation, age, disability or minority group.

See Our Code of Business Principles and Code Policies (PDF | 3MB)

Leading the way: change from the top

Diversity and inclusion are strategic priorities, and they’re being driven and supported by our senior leadership.

Our Global Diversity Board

Our Global Diversity Board provides the overarching vision, governance and target setting for diversity and inclusion across our business. Seven members of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE) sit on the Board, which meets three times a year and is chaired by our CEO, Alan Jope.

In addition to our company-wide policies, we support our commitment with targets, and progress against them is reported to the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE) each month. Improving female representation in the workforce is linked to the performance goals of our leaders.

Each country and individual business function has its own targets, which reflect its particular diversity challenges. We’ve identified our Supply Chain as one of the areas where we need to give diversity greater priority. We’re making steady progress, for example the number of female factory managers and directors increased to 20% in 2018, compared to 12% in 2016. And we have around 45 women running our factories around the world.

More details on our policy commitments to diversity and inclusion are included in Fairness in the workplace. Our Human Rights Report 2017 (PDF | 10MB) and Understanding our human rights impacts also describe our work to address obstacles to diversity, including discrimination and harassment, in our business and supply chain.

Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index

We were selected for inclusion in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index 2019, which comprises companies committed to transparency in gender reporting and advancing women’s equality in the workplace.

Companies report information on how they promote gender equality across four areas: company statistics; policies; community engagement; and products and services. Those that score above a globally established threshold, based on the extent of their disclosures and the achievement of best-in-class statistics and policies, are included in the index.

The index includes 230 companies from 10 sectors headquartered across 36 countries. Collectively, these firms have a combined market capitalisation of $9 trillion and employ more than 15 million people – including 7 million women.

Women leaders

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Of our managers are women

At the end of 2018, 35% of our total workforce of 155,000 people was female. 49% of our managers were women, up from 38% in 2010. We want to ensure that the representation of women at the most senior levels in our business keeps increasing. Sustained leadership accountability and awareness building, clear targets and measurement, programmes to recruit, retain and develop female talent, internal and external communications and engagement, and our network of Diversity and Inclusion Champions are all part of our overall approach.

But we still have much to do: among our top 92 executives, 23% were women in 2018, up only slightly on the 22% we reached in 2017. The Women’s Leadership Development Programme, run by the INSEAD-Unilever Four Acres Consortium, aims to enhance the leadership skills of our senior female executives and talented women from other sectors. At Board level in 2018, five of our 13 Board members were women (38%) (the same as in 2017).

Our brands also play an active role in supporting women as leaders. Find out how we're Enhancing entrepreneurial life skills through our brands.

Recruiting & retaining the best female talent

We run programmes across the business aimed at attracting, retaining, and developing female talent. These are based on a global framework and tailored to meet the needs of individual countries and regions.

Our hiring managers must use ‘balanced slates’ (which means an equal number of qualified female and male candidates) to make sure there’s a level playing field of talented people to promote. We’ve designed a range of initiatives to enable both women and men to reach their full potential. Our agile working policy, for example, allows people to work anytime, anywhere, as long as business needs are being fully met.

#Unstereotype in the workplace & beyond

As well as being vital to the success of our business, we know that advancing diversity within Unilever plays a part in our wider ambitions to challenge outdated cultural norms throughout our value chain – and contribute to a more prosperous and just society by empowering women everywhere.

Diversity can only flourish in an environment that welcomes and nurtures it – an inclusive culture of the kind we want to build. We believe that stereotypes, unconscious bias and outdated social norms are the biggest barriers to inclusion – so our internal #Unstereotype the Workplace campaign aims to break them down, just as our external #Unstereotype initiative aims to break stereotypes in the way we portray women and men in our advertising.

We launched #Unstereotype the Workplace on International Women’s Day in March 2017. By June 2017, it had reached 82,000 employees through a campaign that included expert panels, films, quizzes and talks by external experts. In 2018 and 2019, we celebrated International Women’s Day with our Gamechangers for Gender Equality campaign which celebrated the everyday actions of people who are challenging stereotypes across our workplaces and helping to make the organisation more inclusive. Actions include men taking paternity leave, women in engineering and successful job shares. The campaign was launched in 49 countries.

Read more about #Unstereotype and how we're challenging harmful gender norms.


Saudi woman working in line production

Saudi Vision 2030: a first for blue-collar women

We're creating opportunities for women across our business – including in the technical or supervisory roles where in some markets they are under-represented. This allows individuals to flourish and often secure higher pay. And it strengthens our business by widening our talent pool.

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia women represent 20% of the workforce, but only 2% are in the industrial sector.

In 2017, 11 female machine operators and one female supervisor joined the production line in our Jeddah factory making Lifebuoy and Lux liquid soaps. They were the first local women to join our blue-collar workforce.

"Before joining Unilever, I had a job but it was pretty mundane," says Sahar Jamaan Alharthi. “Now I feel I have the chance of a career in which I can develop my skills, gain valuable experience and carve out opportunities for the future. One day, I would like to maybe move into a supervisor role. I am ambitious and this could open doors."

Hesham Abdulwahab, HR Director in our Kingdom of Saudi Arabia business, explains the significance of these appointments.

“The move is an important step in our Saudi Vision 2030. We set this out in 2016 with the aim of increasing women across our workforce from 22% to 30% – and investing in their skills development so they can make a full contribution to society and the economy. Unilever was the first fast-moving consumer goods company to obtain official permission from the Labour Office in Saudi Arabia to employ women.

At the time – in 2003 – we recruited mainly into our Marketing and Consumer Marketing Insight functions. Appointing our first factory workers means gender diversity has jumped from zero to 8% for blue-collar employees.”

Changing the face of engineering & tech

Not enough women become engineers – and not enough of our engineers are women. That’s a reality in society and in our workforce – but it’s one that we're working to change. Women now represent 19% of our engineering teams, an increase of 6% since 2016, but we know this is only the start.

A good example of the sort of initiatives we’ve set up is our WULF programme, a partnership with WomEng (Women in Engineering) and the Unilever Leadership Fellowship. Together, we’ve run a series of two-day workshops and events in Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Indonesia and the UK to raise the profile of engineering careers at Unilever and attract the new engineers we need to continue to grow as a business. In 2018 we ran WULF in Thailand and Vietnam.

Digital technology is another sector in which women are under-represented. That’s why we launched Unilever Women in Tech in 2018.

Women in Tech - creating opportunities

Georgina Park

Georgina Park is Global Marketing Tech Manager in our Beauty and Personal Care Division.

“Tech is getting more and more integral to our personal and work lives – and it’s opening up exciting opportunities. In fact, demand for technology-based professionals is growing 35% year on year, and people are keen to step up – ‘software developer’ topped Forbes Magazine’s 100 most popular jobs in 2018.

But there’s a well-publicised diversity gap in the sector. According to a study by PwC, only 15% of employees working in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) roles in the UK are female – and only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women.

We want to change that. In October 2018, Unilever launched Women in Technology (WIT): a new programme aimed at driving greater diversity in technology careers in our business and beyond. It consists of a mixture of courses and events to build the hard and soft skills needed for successful tech careers and, crucially, an inclusive network of contemporaries and mentors. Ultimately, we want to build a Unilever network of Women in Tech Ambassadors to help drive awareness of tech careers among people of all genders and backgrounds – starting in schools and ending at the top.”

Removing barriers for mothers

Our Maternity & Paternity Support (MAPS) Programme

Parenthood shouldn’t be a barrier in anyone's career. We recognise the importance of supporting new parents so that they can continue to contribute to our business.

Our Maternity and Paternity Support Programme helps employees make the transition to parenthood as smoothly as possible.

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Weeks’ paid maternity leave

In 2017 we introduced our Global Maternal Well-being Standard, which had been rolled out to every country in which we operate by the end of 2018.

The Standard gives returning mothers access to facilities that allow them to nurse their baby and to have all the flexibility they need to return to the workplace. Among other measures, it entitles all employees to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave as a minimum. Although our previous entitlements already met local regulatory requirements, our Standard is a major advance. In 54% of the countries in which we operate, it exceeded the local regulatory requirement when we introduced it.


Aline Santos

Flexible working for working mothers

“We’ve come a long way in our support for working mothers,” says Aline Santos, our Executive Vice President of Global Marketing and our Head of Diversity and Inclusion. “We believe our Global Maternal Well-being Standard is industry-leading in terms of helping women in the transition to being a working mum – and in fostering the diverse business we need to attract and keep the best talent.

All mothers returning to work also have access to a variety of flexible options, such as part-time or agile working and job sharing, based on the requirements of their role. As we’ve rolled out our Global Standard, we've been increasing the availability of breastfeeding facilities and ensuring nursing mothers have two 30-minute breaks in the day. And we’re enabling sites with over 50 female employees to provide access to crèche services that are tailored to local needs.”

Our HR Learning Manager, Abigail Collins is based in the UK. Her job is learning and development for people in Human Resources across Unilever. “I returned to work in April 2017, following the birth of my daughter Annabel. My boss was great at striking the right balance during my year off on maternity leave, keeping me in the loop and inviting me to things regularly.

Now I'm back at work, life is busy, but being able to work from home sometimes is really helpful. My boss trusts me to get the job done, when and how it works for me. When I turn off my laptop, I can be with my daughter five minutes later. My childminder is very close to my home, so the time I save by not commuting is quality time with her.”

Aline and Leena Nair, our Chief HR Officer explain the importance of MAPs.

Removing barriers for fathers too

In 2018, we introduced our new Global Paternity Leave Standard, which enables new fathers to take three weeks’ paid paternity leave. It’s available to same-sex couples and to those who choose to adopt.

Not all countries have rights or policies to ensure time off for new parents – for example just 78 out of 167 countries have a statutory right to paternity leave. We aim to roll out our new Standard to all the countries we operate in by the end of 2019. This move to standardise the minimum amount of paid paternity leave we offer is part of our commitment to making Unilever a more balanced, inclusive workplace around the world.

Not only does our new standard mean more families can benefit from enjoying more time together, we also believe parents sharing responsibility for childcare helps to drive gender equality – an extremely important agenda for our business, for society and for the future.

Leena Nair, our Chief HR Officer

As with our maternity support, the Global Paternity Leave Standard is about changing the culture of our workplaces. It aims to break down the kinds of barriers that are often attached to fathers taking time off to be with their new family.

That’s an approach that chimes with our wider efforts to tackle stereotypes – including through brand campaigns like Dove Men+Care’s #DearFutureDads, which supports paternity leave for men around the world and aims to enable them to be the parents they want to be.

In 2018, Dove Men+Care partnered with Promundo, a global NGO with expertise in gender equality, to carry out a pioneering study which resulted in the Helping Dads Care report. More details on this and our other campaigns can be found in Challenging harmful gender norms and on the Dove Men+Care website.

Paternity leave has immense lifelong benefits for men and their families. We hope to find more like-minded collaborators who will join us on our journey to champion paternity leave and continue to challenge the stereotypes that hold men back.

Molly Kennedy, our Senior Global Brand Manager for Dove Men+Care

Equal pay for equal work

We believe in paying for performance with clear reward policies and have a longstanding commitment to equal pay for equal work.

Our compensation structures are intended to be gender neutral, with any pay differences between employees in similar jobs fairly reflecting levels of individual performance and skill.

In the UK, we published our first Gender Pay Gap Report (PDF | 5MB) at the end of 2017, ahead of the regulatory requirement to publish in April 2018. We published our second Report (PDF | 4MB) in January 2019. Our no discrimination principle is set out as one of five principles in our Framework for Fair Compensation (PDF | 449KB).

Our commitments to equal pay and to addressing average pay gaps are described in Fair compensation and No discrimination in compensation.

Our ambition: unlocking talent through disability inclusion

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People worldwide are living with disabilities

The World Health Organization estimates that there are one billion people in the world currently living with a disability. That’s about 15% of the global population, or 1 in 7 of us.

Everybody is likely to experience disability either directly or have a family member who does at some point in their life. That’s why it matters to us as individuals, on a deeply personal level. It also matters to us, fundamentally, as a business because people with disabilities represent a vastly untapped source of talent, creativity and potential. Yet the statistics suggest that people living with disabilities are among the most marginalised populations in the world in terms of employment and educational opportunity.

We all have a responsibility to change opportunities for the better for people with disabilities.

Leena Nair, our Chief HR Officer
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Employer of choice for people with disabilities

Removing the barriers facing people living with disability is a priority for our business. It isn’t just the right thing to do – we believe that creating equality of opportunity will unlock a huge pool of talent. It also gets to the heart of the ambition to ‘leave no one behind’ – and could contribute to the five Sustainable Development Goals which explicitly reference disability and to the wider sustainable development agenda.

In 2018, we set ourselves global commitments to achieve by 2025:

  • to be the number one employer of choice for people with disabilities, and
  • to increase the number of employees with disabilities to 5% of our total workforce.

These are ambitious targets. They involve transforming the way we recruit and train our people. And they mean adapting both the way we work and our workplaces, so that we can support people with disabilities to reach their full potential.

Our Disability Inclusion Programme

In 2018, we initiated our Disability Inclusion Programme in 10 countries. It’s built on a comprehensive analysis of the physical accessibility of our sites, the technological accessibility of our virtual sites, and programmes to source disabled talent. In 2019, we aim to use the learnings from these first countries to roll out the programme to another ten.

To complement the programme, we’ve started an internal communications campaign called I AM ME to raise awareness and promote action across the business. We timed the launch of this to coincide with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December 2018.

 Independently assured by PwC

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